"The collective 'strength' of the five of us is quite something, don't you think?"
Before Yaegashi Taichi's eyes, Nagase Iori abruptly asked a question.
Nagase, who was like the ideal beautiful girl brought into reality, would occasionally ask questions for purposes that he could not grasp.
"Strength, you say...... what kind?"
Taichi asked back.
"Well, in general, or something like that."
"Your vague explanation makes it difficult for me to comment."
"Anyways, I really think that there are quite a few things the five of us can do together that other people can't."
If these five are together, they could do anything.
"Certainly Inaba and Kiriyama, and even you and Aoki, too, excel in all kinds of areas, and I think that it's amazing when you're all together. Well, I'm nothing compared to them though."
I'm not being self-deprecating here. If you look at the other members' personalities, I'm just an ordinary existence compared to them.
"Nah, you're wrong about that. There's only meaning when all five of us are together."
Nagase twirled her tied up hair around her finger.
"Is that so? Well, I don't plan on denying it."
If she had said "That's right" and smiled, our conversation would have probably ended. But for some reason, she chose to take a different attitude.
"Then, Taichi, if you have to pick one member out of us five, who do you think is the most important member of the group? Oh, and there's no ulterior motive behind this."
"Well, obviously it would be the person who essentially leads us, you or Inaba......"
"Wow! You really don't understand, huh, Taichi?"
Nagase sighed and her shoulders drooped, as if to say "Give me a break."
"The number one key member is undoubtedly Yaegashi Taichi."
Taichi, being engulfed by voice that seemed to permeate his chest, nodded for a brief moment...... and then he hurriedly shook his head.
"No, no, that can't be possible......"
"Yes it is."
"That's because, I―"
"Yes it is."
"Yes it is."
"......OK, I understand, so please let me say something."
"Do you not want to believe that you're that kind of person?"
"It's not that I don't want to believe it, it's that I can't believe it, I think."
"Huhhhh...... What's wrong with trying to believe it? Thinking of yourself as a necessary existence isn't a particularly bad way of living, right?"
"......Well that's true. Thinking that way is good, right?"
However, Taichi couldn't think of himself the center of the five people.
"Ummm, what I’m thinking is that I want you to think this way, Taichi."
"I'm not that amazing of a person, but it would be great if I could be that idealized image."
While talking in the light-hearted conversation, Taichi had observed that Nagase was seemingly disappointed, and had wanted to answer to her expectations.
But even if it was for the purpose of appeasing Nagase, he would feel bad saying something insincerely.
"A necessary person, huh?"
The murmur that leaked from Taichi's mouth didn't just stop at Nagase's ears, but also dispersed in the room.
"By the way, I'm RE-AL-LY hu-ng-ry―!"
...... With Nagase's random yell, the serious atmosphere in the room also lifted.
Yamaboshi Private High School's Cultural Research Club, also known as the CRC, is a club for "Those who cannot adhere to the existing framework, where research activities are done on various fields of culture." In other words, it is a "anything goes" kind of club, where the current members are five first year students.
For a club with such a formal-sounding name, it is quite a lenient one, where members can do whatever they’d like. The school only accepted this club on one condition: Once a month, "CR News" is distributed.
It was now midsummer.
Inside the Cultural Research Club's clubroom, Taichi and the other members of the CRC sat around the long tables.
"We will now begin the meeting to report on the articles that will be published in the Cultural Research Club's Cultural Festival 'CR News Cultural Festival Extended Edition'."
As the CRC's vice president, Inaba Himeko took her position at the seat of power and read out the long title without a single fumble.
With glossy, semi-long, straight black hair and a slim, sharp figure, she gave off the image of a girl who could somehow do anything.
Today, they were meeting to discuss the Cultural Festival, soon opening in the beginning of September right after summer break.
"Let us go clockwise from Yui."
Inaba, with her usual authoritative demeanor, called on the small-statured and pretty Kiriyama Yui, who had chestnut-colored long hair.
"Fufufu, I think you'll like mine. That's because girls from other schools and girls from middle school visiting will definitely be pleased."
Speaking with full self-confidence, Kiriyama fished around in her bag and retrieved a piece of paper.
"My article is...... 'Stylish Girls Choose! Today's Top Ten Hot Cute Accessories! With These Your Cuteness Will Quickly Increase!'."
While showing off her article draft, Kiriyama puffed up with pride―
"OK, next, Iori."
―Just as Inaba ignored her and continued the meeting.
"Wait, wait a second! No comments?ǃ There should be some, right? Right?ǃ"
Kiriyama's chair shook with a clatter as she stood up.
Inaba coldly asserted.
The difference in temperature was extreme.
"Why? The two boys ― better yet, the girls probably should be interested, right?ǃ"
"My decision’s made. Iori?"
Inaba pushed the conversation to Iori.
"Yeah, even if you told me about popular accessories, I wouldn't understand, right~"
Ahaha- Nagase laughed without a care in the world.
"Hm, hmph. In any case, the Cool Beauty Inaba and the number one beauty of our year, Iori, wouldn't be concerned with this kind of thing anyway."
"Well, even if you're not sulking, Kiriyama is cute enough already."
Taichi replied to Kiriyama, who was sticking her tongue out.
"Uii...... yeah. Thanks, Taichi."
Kiriyama nodded with a slightly surprised expression.
"Wait! That's my job! Even though I also agree with the cute part."
A boy with delicate features and a slim figure, Aoki Yoshifumi, cut into the conversation.
By the way, Aoki was in no way dating Kiriyama Yui. (His one-sided advances had always been given the cold shoulder.)
"Speaking of which, Yui, don't worry, today you're also cute!"
"Even when you say it, I'm not happy in the slightest!"
The difference in temperature became somewhat extreme.
"But seriously, isn't this mostly catering to girls? However, this article is practical, and this idea should be saved for the longer 'CR News'. It's not that there's anything wrong with it, Yui."
Inaba praised. Kiriyama nodded with an unsatisfied face and sat back down. Well, her cheeks had loosened up, so she was probably content with being flattered.
"With Inaban's OK, I'm next, I guess? Mine is ―― this."
With a joyful expression, Nagase opened the piece of paper. By the way, Nagase is the Cultural Research Club's president.
"'Full Coverage! The Day of a Yamaboshi High School Student ~ Inaba Himeko Edition'."
"What's with reporting and distributing private information without permission?!"
"It seems like a student newspaper and it isn't bad to put one student on the spotlight, right?"
"The concept is good, but don't use me as the subject!"
"Eh? But when I thought about the number one thing I wanted to know right now, I came to the conclusion: 'Inaban's private Information!'"
"I'm interested in that, too."
Taichi lazily murmured.
"Ah, me too, me too!"
"I kind of want to know, too."
Aoki and Kiriyama continued.
"You guys, how much do you like me?!"
"It's because Inaban is secretive that everyone has this feeling."
"If that's the case, then Iori is better suited for this!"
Responding to Inaba's attempt at a counterattack, Nagase shook her head as if saying "Not me~".
"In any case, rejected. Definitely not allowed. How can I reveal personal information to an indefinite number of people? ...... I've got an idea. There was someone who participated in the National Sports Competition a while back; you could write an article about them."
"Eh? All I wanted was to approach Inaban's private territory~."
"Now you're making it sound even worse! In any case, I'm not doing it. Just do something about the National Sports Competition guy. With that, Iori's part has been decided. Right, next! Next is Aoki, right?"
Ignoring the dissatisfied Iori, Inaba forcibly changed the topic.
"This time, because it's the long awaited Cultural Festival Special Edition, I changed the article to a reader interactive one with a present attached. I thought of this idea because I wanted to do something different."
"Heh, sounds interesting."
"Right? With that, mine is 'Request! Love Rescue Team! Solve this Troubled Love! An Extravagant Prize Is Attached!'."
"It does resemble a Cultural Festival plan. It doesn't sound so bad for something from Aoki."
It was a rare agreement from Inaba.
"Yes! I've been praised by Inaba-chan! But 'something from Aoki' wasn't needed!"
Nagase asked a question.
"In general, what kind of content is it?"
"Ah, Iori-chan is also overflowing with interest, right? Well then, I shall explain! A question will be posed to the readersː How does AY-san land KY-san, who hasn't responded to an offer for a date, probably due to her shyness? Detailed data will be inserted as reference material and the readers' submissions will be gathered-"
"Stop! Those initials totally stand for Kiriyama Yui and Aoki Yoshifumi, don't they?!"
Bangǃ Two hands hit the table as Kiriyama yelled.
"W-Why did you have to expose it......"
"Of course it'll be exposed! And what did you mean by 'detailed data'?!"
"That's...... that way, it'll be easier for someone to come up with better ideas, and the person who gives an actual, successful suggestion will be given a present."
"That's enough, stop! So that's your idea for an extravagant prize?ǃ If that's the case, with nothing to win, this is a completely empty lottery!"
"T-The possibility isn't zero, right? Even if it's like the chance of winning a three-hundred-million-yen lottery, it can still happen, right?"
"......So you accept that your chances are astronomical at best, Aoki?"
Seeing Aoki getting totally dissed, the urge to cheer for his success became a little stronger.
With Kiriyama's roar, Aoki's proposal went down the drain.
"For now, Aoki's article needs some more work. Next is Taichi, right?"
Inaba said. Taichi took out the draft of his article and opened it.
"Because the Cultural Festival will also cater to the general public, I, too, have based my idea around accommodating as many people as possible. As such, my article is 'The First Pro-wrestling Fight Viewing - If You Know This, Your Life Will Have Ten Times The Fun!'. Of course, the pro-wrestling matches are in the styles I like myself, and―"
"Shit! There is absolutely no need to listen to this guy talking!"
"Get out! Pro-wrestling otaku!"
Following that, Nagase hollered.
"Wait, calm down! You always say that it's unnecessary and are always against it, but this time, it's completely for people who are not familiar with―"
"It's pointless if the content itself hasn't changed!"
Inaba shouted once more.
"And yet Taichi thinks that's fineǃ"
On top of that, Nagase also shouted again.
"That's why, hang on. Certainly, advanced content such as 'Only if the first wrestlers can precisely set up the Boston Crab will the main event special move battle be amazing'. will be included and―"
"Alright, I get it. Do whatever you like."
Inaba looked like she was absolutely annoyed but dealt with it.
"Come to think of it, what kind of article do you have, Inaba?"
Taichi said with a nuance, which exposed his thought that Inaba's idea would be amazing.
"Because it's a festival, I thought 'What can I do to kick things up a notch?'"
While talking, Inaba took out a photo.
As Taichi pondered the meaning of the phrase that he'd never heard from Inaba before, he leaned forward and tried to look at the photo ― At that moment he stiffened.
Taichi froze without a sound.
Next to him, everyone except for Inaba was making an uproar.
The culprit for this chaos.
The photo showed two Yamaboshi High School teachers, who were shown clasping hands in a café.
"H-How the hell did you get ahold of this?!"
It was like a real scoop from a weekly photo magazine. With some fear, Taichi asked.
"Fufufu, It's a SE-CR-ET."
As usual, Inaba was unfathomable today.
"Uh, well...... but wait. Disregarding how you even obtained this photo, there's no way we can publish this in a school newspaper, right?"
"Is this for real?!" "It doesn't look like they were together by accident?!" "Awesome!" Taking a sideways glance at Nagase, Kiriyama, and Aoki, who were still cooing over the photo, Taichi continued asking.
"Anything can be done with a publication permit."
"It can't be that simple...... Well, even if we are allowed to print it, can we even distribute this? If this is seen by the subjects themselves and the other teachers, won't they immediately stop it?"
"Hmph, that small obstacle isn't going to be a problem for the five of us, right?"
―If it's the five of us.
"Why are you acting so sure of yourself…..? This almost certainly won't work. It will be over if we do that. There's no way this will end well."
As Taichi voiced his realistic concerns, Inaba made a somewhat serious expression.
"Of course, if we do it without thinking about the consequences, it would be difficult to complete and settle it peacefully without getting a single complaint against us. A normal person is only capable of normal things, so it may not work for them. However, we can do it. Why? That's because―"
Broadly grinning, with the sides of her mouth raised, Inaba haughtily folded her arms.
"―If the five of us are together, we are invincible. At least within this school."
Even with zero proof to back up her boast, Inaba declared with a confidence that inspired others to believe in her claim.
"That's that. Mission Start!"
There was only one week until the Cultural Festival at Yamaboshi High School.
The sound of hammers hitting nails and the voices of a great many singers could be heard. Aside from that, the chattering of many students hard at work caused the school to be surrounded by a cacophony of noise.
Within that, Taichi and gang proceeded with their plan for the CRC.
And now, Taichi, Nagase, and Inaba, went to meet the Cultural Research Club's adviser, Gotou Ryuuzen (A 25-year-old physics teacher) in the staff room in order to get approval for their completed articles.
Getting the permission to publish the article was the first hurdle.
"Ohh, the CRC members from my class 1C. What's up? By the way, how's the class's café going?"
Gotou is the homeroom teacher of class 1C, which was Taichi, Nagase and Inaba's class. Inevitably, the three of them came to know him as the teacher who interacts the most with his students.
"As you should know, since our class president is reliably taking care of it, we're progressing almost too smoothly. And Gotou, like always, we would like you to scan through this 'CR News' and affix the seal so that we can distribute it legally."
Even though Gotou was really friendly to the students, I’m not sure if Inaba's attitude is acceptable.
"Hey, Inaba. I've already told you to at least call me by my approved nickname, 'Go-san'. By leaving out the honorific, my dignity as your teacher would...... hmm? Is that the work for this time......?"
The "CR News Cultural Festival Special Edition" caught Gotou's attention, distracting him from defending his pride as a teacher.
There were a variety of opportune one liners to throw, but Taichi restrained himself.
"W-What is this one page with that huge photo? This is...... Tanaka-sensei from social studies! And that's Hirata Ryouko-sensei, who meets the three important conditions of looks, style, personality, and has outstanding talent to bootǃ Those two had that kind of relationshipǃ? I never knew they were dating!"
"Go-san. it's obvious that your description of Hirata-sensei doesn't come from your ability to judge colleagues."
As one would expect, Taichi butted in with his one liner.
"It doesn't look like they are officially dating yet." Inaba said.
"Ahhh...... What...... That's great...... There's a huge age gap between Tanaka-sensei, who's well into middle age and the youthful and energetic Hirata-sensei, who's still in her early twenties, after all."
Gotou took a deep breath.
"But it seems like it's only a matter of time before they start dating."
"Ehhh. Isn't Tanaka-sensei just a quiet, unsociable person in love with Japanese history?ǃ Just when I was worried about him still being single in his old age, he went ahead and caught some big fish!"
Seeing Gotou grabbing his head with his hands, Inaba laughed secretly.
Inaba (student) was just playing around and Gotou (teacher) was being played.
"Aaaah, I've lost my will to work today. Tonight I'm going to go drinking."
"So, Go-san, could you use the seal and give us the permission to distribute 'CR News'?"
While fluttering the document, Nagase asked.
"If you want, stamp it yourself. Anyway, if it's you guys, you probably didn't write anything you shouldn't have, hmph."
By one way or another, their relationship of trust had come to this.
"―We figured that you'd say that, so we did it already."
Nagase said, grinning.
"......That's a really weird thing to say so smoothly."
As expected, Taichi muttered to himself while feeling that there was a problem somewhere.
With that, the first obstacle became nothing but a small hurdle thanks to Gotou's personality.
Just as Taichi, Nagase, and Inaba were looking for a printer, Kiriyama and Aoki came to the Cultural Research Club's clubroom. Recently, Kiriyama and Aoki had to put in a lot of effort to practice for their class's dance performance, so it had been quite a while since the five of them gathered. With no delay, the "CR News Cultural Festival Special Edition" meeting started.
Taichi turned towards Inaba and spoke.
"As I thought, regarding this kind of scandalous scoop article, I would like to get the subjects' permission first."
"I'm telling you, it's going to be fine. According to my research, they are completely in love each other, but with their age gap and with Tanaka-sensei being a rigid, boring person, they haven't really decided yet. This article could be a push in the right direction for the two of them. I don’t think it will be a problem...... Probably."
"Don't use 'probably'...... I've been thinking about it for a while now, but how did you end up with this information in your hands?"
"Haven't I told you already? It's a Se-cr-et. Ufufu."
"That's an amazingly villainous face, Inaba......"
The degree of change from her usual face was actually quite frightening.
"Well, I'll trust Inaba on this."
Kiriyama opened her mouth.
"Let's quickly decide on how to distribute 'CR News'. If we don't have a plan, we would probably be stopped in the middle of distribution, right?"
Kiriyama fanned herself using a desk pad, causing her long chestnut-colored hair to wave in the air.
"We did get permission, but Go-san only gave an OK based on his own judgment...... and he did it extremely arbitrarily."
After all, it was unthinkable that Gotou's status among the teachers was so high that everything would be fine with only his permission.
"That's a simple problem. In fact, I don't really see it as a problem."
Inaba was brimming with self-confidence again.
"Do you have a good solution for this, Inaba?" Taichi asked.
With this level of confidence, she must have a suitable idea―
"We distribute it all at once, that's all."
―But it was surprisingly simple.
"Yeah, yeah. Without any complexities and with a straightforward effect, that's probably the best."
Nagase nodded, then leaned forward and continued talking.
"Ah, I was thinking, since we don't do this very often, we should aim to distribute them in a way with a big impactǃ How about scattering them from the roof in a flashy way?"
"That's great! Nice Idea, Iori-chan. That's very festival-like! Wouldn't it be even better if we launch something like fireworks while scattering the articles?"
"Ohhh, not bad, Aokiǃ This will be a big event!
"Yayǃ" Aoki and Nagase exclaimed with unnecessarily high tension.
"Because it will be the focus of attention, lots of people will look at it. Also, it won't take much time to distribute. We’ll be killing two birds with one stone."
Kiriyama also looked like she was enthusiastic about it.
"Hmph, not bad, I think. But in this situation, we'll first have to consider if any refreshment booths nearby are using fire...... Moreover, we won't be able to throw everything out at once, so we'll need to decide on the exact number of copies to scatter, and we'll have to think about whether we should store the remaining copies somewhere or distribute them. Ahh, and we’ll have to check in detail the condition of the wind on that day. Furthermore, if they’re not all picked up, we'll have to go collect them by ourselves......"
Inaba confirmed the practical implementation of the plan.
"I can't tell if you're a reckless or logical person."
"What are you saying, Taichi? At the very least, I'm more logical than anyone else here."
Inaba doesn't seem to have one shred of doubt.
"If we're throwing them off, ha! I've just thought of a brilliant idea!"
All of a sudden, Aoki stood up.
"What? I'll listen without expectations."
Kiriyama frowned with a slightly sultry expression.
"No, no, it's okay to have some expectations, Yui! I'm in perfect form today! Why don't we do it when the people at the main stage are at the peak of their excitement, or in other words, right after the Cultural Festival's final highlight, the long-awaited Yamaboshi High School Beauty Contest? That's what I'm saying!"
"...... That's actually a normal suggestion. I can't think of any comments for it."
"Why not?ǃ Is it a terrible thing for me to be normal?ǃ"
Nagase replied to Aoki's outburst.
"It's not terrible, but it's just somewhat wrong. Ah, your suggestion was pretty good though."
"What...... What can I even hope for...... Ah, I don't know anymore. Whatever."
He gave up quickly.
Inaba cut in. After everyone's attention was on her, she continued.
"Wouldn't it be interesting if the beauty contest winner was a CRC member?"
"Ohhh," everyone cheered in response to Inaba's plan.
"That's good--but the problem is who can go on stage and take the victory......"
Nagase was interrupted by Inaba.
"That would obviously be you, Iori. I'm not being sarcastic here. I seriously believe that you can do it."
"Ehh, I do accept that I am cute, but can I really take first place?"
"So you admit that you're cute," Taichi muttered.
What a frank girl. This certainly isn't a mistake.
Kiriyama piped up.
"It'll be fine, Iori. The Beauty Pageant is structured such that contestants are separated by their school year. And looking at it objectively, you can't say that there's a first year student cuter than Iori. My judgment of cute kids is good, so don't worry."
"What's with Kiriyama saying that in such a proud way......"
Once again, Taichi whispered.
"Actually, both Inaba and Yui have the potential to win the contest, right?"
"Well, I'm certainly in the category of beautiful people, I think."
"I'm also pretty cute, I guess." Inaba and Kiriyama said.
Basically, the CRC's Girl Squad is strangely not humble about such matters.
"By the way, for me, Yui is the number one ― doha?ǃ"
Aoki's shoulder was struck with Inaba's burst of punches.
"Shut up! Ah~ anyway, we won't go wrong if Iori enters the pageant. Tsk, well, throw in the trump card! Say it, Taichi!"
"Huh? I...... What can I say?"
Taichi was flustered at suddenly being pointed out.
"If you say something, I have a feeling it will go somewhat well!"
Inaba encouraged as she left the job to him.
"Even if you say that...... But, well, I suppose that Nagase's appearance can win the Beauty Pageant."
For the time being, Taichi just said whatever he thought of.
"That's...... Taichi thinks that I'm very cute...... would that be a good interpretation?"
Nagase's sincere eyes peeked at Taichi's direction.
"Oh, well, it's just as you said." Taichi nodded.
After digesting that response with a few seconds of silence, Nagase presented a smile that made Taichi's heart melt.
It was a shockingly attractive smile.
"What? That's strange. After Taichi said it, I felt like I wanted to do it. Alright, let's goǃ I'll win the contest and then we'll distribute 'CR News' in a really flashy manner!"
Nagase tightened her fist and announced in a loud voice.
"Yeah, that's it! Nagase-chan, fight!"
"The participants are free to choose the clothing for the beauty pageant, right?ǃ Wow, I wonder what should I put on you~. Ufufu, in my name, I will make you~~~~~~ the cutest one!"
Aoki and Kiriyama jubilantly said.
Beside them, Inaba smugly turned to look at Taichi, with a face that seemed to say, "See, exactly how I said it would go."
"That was unexpected."
Taichi said. Inaba snorted and laughed scornfully.
"Is that so? ...... Anyway, what we have to prepare now are daytime fireworks as huge and showy as possible, and......"
Inaba pulled the laptop in front of her closer and started typing away.
"Let's do our best for the Cultural Festival, Taichi! We have to make it a successǃ"
With a full on her face, Nagase forcefully stuck out her right fist at Taichi.
―What can I do as a person in this five-man group?
Even though I don't understand it myself, it isn't especially important.
But, even if it is, I'll do what I can.
"......Yeahǃ if we're doing it, let's make this a success for sure."
Taichi bumped his right fist with Nagase's.
The day of the Cultural Festival arrived.
The skies were clear with a gentle breeze. It was the ideal weather for Taichi and the CRC's plan.
Thanks to the weather, many people who weren't from the school came to visit. The turnout was superb, and the school was surrounded by a lively atmosphere.
A little past noon, Taichi went towards the main stage with Inaba, Kiriyama, and Aoki.
The cultural festival was a complete success. While looking away and walking, one would quickly bump into someone else.
Now, the event on the main stage would account for the success or failure of "CR News Cultural Festival Special Edition Distribution Operation!" (Named by Inaba). The appeal time of the Beauty Pageant (First Year Division) was underway.
Even if Nagase was eliminated, the operation would not become impossible to conduct. A backup plan had been prepared for that situation.
However, since Taichi and the others went on with the plan based on the assumption that Nagase would come out victorious, they would want to avoid sudden changes if possible.
Above all, they wanted to achieve a complete success.
"I've checked out the contestants for the first years, and they can be all said to be fairly cute, but there isn't anyone who comes close to Iori."
Kiriyama said while holding some Takoyaki she had bought from a refreshment booth. Because of the dance performance in her class today, she had tied her chestnut hair back.
On the stage, the female contestants were asked various questions by the host.
The host had been infected by the mood and was asking suggestive questions, causing the audience to erupt in excitement......
However, asking for the three sizes was overdoing it a...... ah, I've been hit.
"That's good!" "Do more!" Some hoots flew in from outfield.
It was as if the grounds were being heated up with all the hype.
"I didn't help, but the outfit's right on the mark, right?"
Inaba asked Kiriyama.
"Hafu...... Hot! Isn't, isn't this a bit too hot, this Takoyaki?ǃ"
"Eh? Really? I'll try to eat one. Ok, ahh."
"Who'd let you eat it, you pervert bastard."
Kiriyama showered Aoki with jeers, who was looking quite stupid with his mouth wide open.
Those two never change.
"Ummm, you were asking about the outfit, right? Of course it's perfect! I was in a dilemma, but then I decided to make it completely to my liking!"
"Hey," interrupted Taichi.
"I wanted her to wear that once~. It's very cute so expect the best. Ah, remember to flatter her by saying "It's cute it's cute", so that it'll probably be easy to make her do cosplay from now on."
"Who's benefiting from this?" said Taichi as he made an interjection once again.
"Mainly me, so?"
Looking as if it was obvious, Kiriyama (lover of cute things) said.
"She'll be everyone's eye candy, so why not? Ah~, really, cute is good. If it's about the thing I want to become, then I want to try and become Iori. If that happens, I'll be able to wear all sorts of costumes...... if I can. Yeah, as I thought, cuteness is justice. Cuteness is the best! Iǃ Loveǃ Cute! Hafu...... it's hot! It's too hot!"
Even if you leave Kiriyama alone, she can become somewhat of an interesting person all on her own.
"And, ah! Inaba, why are you eating my Takoyaki without asking!?"
"......Hm. If there's one thing I understand, it's that you're a complete cat's tongue!"
With a snap, Inaba pointed at Kiriyama using her toothpick.
"Kukuku, Inaba-chan, there's some seaweed stuck on a weird spot in the front of your teeth...... dohha?ǃ Was there a need to hit me?ǃ I was helping you, wasn't I?ǃ"
"Being talked to like that by Aoki kind of makes me lose pride as a human being."
"That's probably the worst abuse I've suffered ever...... Gah."
They weren't paying much attention to the stage.
"―san, thank you very much~. And moving on, entry number four~"
"Oh, isn't Iori next?"
Aoki raised his voice.
"Eh? Already number four? Ummm, camera, camera...... this Takoyaki is in the way!"
"Why did you buy it then….."
After delivering his one liner to the panicking Kiriyama, Taichi focused on the stage once again.
Wrapped in a yukata that could only described as elegant, a girl walked in from the wing of the stage.
The yukata, which was a pale peach color with distinct flower patterns, was neither too flashy nor extremely mature. It had a tinge that seemed to warm the heart and soul.
The girl wearing it had skin that was white like transparent snow. With the pink of the yukata, it was exactly like cherry blossom petals falling onto fresh snow.
Even from far away, it was possible to make out her huge, beautiful, double-eyelid eyes, which were the main feature of her face.
The girl, who had medium-length black hair with the softness and smoothness of silk threads and was wearing a shocking crimson ribbon in her hair (on Yui's insistence), stood in the center of the stage.
With a smile that penetrated everyone's hearts and caused them to smile instinctively, she bent her head slightly to the side.
The crowd's cheer was like a rumble from the ground.
At the center of the stage, showered by the waves of over-whelming cheers was, unequivocally, Nagase Iori.
Taichi, being charmed by her appearance, was speechless.
"Ohhh, I knew that Iori-chan was cute! But was she this cute?ǃ"
Aoki exclaimed, unable to hide his excitement.
"Fu, that's the extent of my coordinating abilities. The hair took quite a bit of time...... Well, it was really almost all thanks to her natural appearance."
Kiriyama ecstatically turned her camera towards the stage.
"There's still the remaining contenders left and the voting after that but...... it's a victory, I think."
Inaba may have quickly declared victory even with all the unknown factors, but this time, it didn't look like she was mistaken, Taichi thought.
Taichi was running down the hallway.
Of course, he was fully aware that he was not supposed to, but even so, he did it anyway.
Taichi earnestly dashed down the bustling hallway at a speed that just missed the standard of danger.
On Taichi's left and right, Aoki and Kiriyama were also running like him. By the way, those two were still in the outfits from their own class's dance performance.
The "CR News Cultural Festival Special Edition Distribution Operation!" had been progressing smoothly, but it was now meeting the first crisis.
If things stay as it is, the Beauty Pageant Results Announcement would commence; in other words, they probably wouldn’t make it at the planned time to throw the "CRC News Cultural Festival Special Edition".
"Why were you two so late?ǃ Didn't you say that you had enough time?ǃ"
Taichi asked Kiriyama and Aoki.
"Cou......couldn't believe, that there was...... an...... encore......"
Since he was taking part in a ferocious sprint after dancing for two rounds, Aoki's breath had become ragged.
"By...... by the...... way...... Taichi...... wasn't your duty...... supposed to end a bit earlier......?"
"It was, but someone really wanted to switch duties......"
Taichi replied and Kiriyama let out an ostentatious sigh.
"Aaah. Taichi's helping-people-thing has appeared again."
One would expect Kiriyama to be at least as athletic as Aoki, but Kiriyama wasn't even breaking a sweat. As one would expect from someone with top class physical strength in the school. Her vigorous fundamental strength as a stalwart presence in the field of middle school girls' karate was still present, even though she had quit karate a while ago.
One, two, three suspicious shadows appeared in front of Taichi's group.
They were three well-built boys who looked like they played rugby. (By the way, they were in aprons.)
The three people who looked just like gate keepers blocked our passage through the corridor.
"Hey, aren't you guys hungry?" "Yeah, you're hungry, right?!" "That is to say, we welcome you three valued customers to our storeǃ"
With unpleasantly business-like smiles on their faces, the three boys rattled off their lines in succession.
"Our shop has a Triumph Set, and it's a huge bargainǃ" "Let's go with that, thenǃ" "That is to say, three orders of the Triumph coming right up!"
Confused, Taichi stumbled and stopped.
Like him, Kiriyama and Aoki also stopped.
"Is this the rumored sales technique to unscrupulously push off the remaining stock in one clean sweep just before the end of the Cultural Festival? ...... Since many clubs have set up refreshment booths, the competition is intense and I've heard that this kind of thing is quite common...... but it's problematic for us to experience it here."
Kiriyama explained the sales tactic to us with an unusual look of admiration.
While she was talking, the group of three muscular males (in aprons) slowly sidled up to us.
It looks like they won't let us pass. However, backtracking and taking another route would cost us a huge amount of time.
In that case.
The thing I can do right now.
"I'll become the sacrifice here. You two go ahead, I'll catch up afterwards."
"Taichi. I'm just asking to make sure, but what are you planning to do by becoming the sacrifice?"
Kiriyama's voice sounded angry.
"I'll eat the Triumph Sets in front of those three...... If I do that, I'll probably help them as well.”
"Haa...... You sure are a simple-minded idiot. Come on, why do you have to be so soft-hearted all the time?ǃ What were you thinking when you said, 'I'll help them as well'?"
Kiriyama looked exasperated. I'm somehow a little apologetic for that.
"Whatever. Anyways, that's not good! We already don't have Iori, so we don't have enough manpower, and we don't have time."
"Well, then what should we do......."
"I'll be the decoy and lure them in. During that time, escape from the side. Got it?"
"But...... But doing that...... Yui!"
Of course, Aoki would say that.
"Who do you think I am? Well then...... let's go!"
Without waiting for Taichi and Aoki's rebuttal, Kiriyama charged at the boys. The size difference between the small-statured Kiriyama and the muscular boys looked disastrous.
"Shit...... Taichi. Haa...... haa...... We have to go!"
Taichi could only continue after the running Aoki. They couldn't afford to waste Kiriyama's gambit.
"Hey, you~" "Where are you going in such a hurry?" "The entrance is this way~"
Since Kiriyama had rushed forward in such a flashy manner, the boys' attention were drawn on her.
And then at that moment, Taichi and Aoki escaped through the flanks of the three muscular boys.
"What?ǃ "Oh no!" "She was a decoy?ǃ"
The apron-wearing boys hurried to catch them, but they were too late.
For one moment, Taichi glimpsed in Kiriyama's direction. She looked a little afraid, but as her eyes glared intently at her opponents, they radiated a burning fighting spirit.
There was nothing to do but believe in Kiriyama. Her instincts from the time when she still did karate had probably not dulled yet, but―
"A-Anyway, even over here...... alright, caught her!"
Taichi couldn't believe his ears.
Those were the worst words.
Kiriyama had been caught.
Taichi quickly braked and turned around―
......This time for sure, Taichi couldn't believe his ears. It was his first experience doubting his hearing ability to such an extent.
"Isn't that surpassing the limits of humans?ǃ"
The group of three boys (in aprons), who were probably not bad people in one way or another, were just saying that to deal with their surprise of getting escaped from...... Believing that, Taichi hurried forward.
Kiriyama, who had caught up in the blink of an eye, lined up next to Taichi.
Then she grinned and stuck her thumb up.
"Cool! Yui! I've fallen for you again!"
Aoki shouted. It seems like he's blown off all of his lethargy.
From today, I'll always remember that Kiriyama has frightfully high potential.
Since there were some delays in the proceedings of the beauty pageant, the crisis of not making it to the results announcement was averted. The next step was to help Inaba carry the “CR News” from the classroom one floor below the rooftop and prepare for the launch of the daytime fireworks...... that was supposed to be the extent of it.
But on the roof, another emergency situation, worse than the one, before had visited the Cultural Research Club.
“Wh-What are you saying? This is?”
Inaba answered Taichi in a quiet voice.
“......I submitted an application to a Cultural Festival Committee member, asking permission to ‘launch a few fireworks and throw a few pieces of paper on the roof’, and because we’re using fireworks, they’ve asked a teacher to supervise us....... Good grief, tell us in advance, dammit.”
Inaba spat detestably. In her line of vision was, of all people, the main subject of this time’s scoop photo, social studies teacher Tanaka.
Tanaka, like always, had a sour unpleased look, which seemed as if he wanted to ask, “You got a problem with that?” Now, he was silently looking at Aoki and Kiriyama who were checking the fireworks near the roof.
“It looks like the setting of the fireworks are done but in this situation, preparing to scatter the ‘CR News’......is difficult, as I thought.”
Tanaka definitely wouldn’t allow us to scatter the “CR News” which has a photo of him and a female co-worker and teacher secretly meeting.
“Aah, its extremely likely that he’d say ‘Don’t distribute thoseǃ’. This plan might even have to be cancelled here.”
Inaba, who was always filled with self-confidence, or rather, hubris, looked down with a grave expression on her face.
Taichi’s voice slipped out, as Inaba’s state caused him to be unable to hide his agitation.
“Can I accept such a thing? Yes or no?”
In a complete change, Inaba had an unpleasantly full smile on her face.
“......No, I think. No doubt.”
I want to laugh at myself after thinking even for a moment that Inaba would give up.
Once she decides on doing something, she would follow through, by hook or by crook.
That's the type of person Inaba is.
"Do you have a plan?"
"Of course, don't you think? Something that won't be so suspicious, and won't be so bad. I have a plan to make Tanaka leave this place for a while."
"......I'm kind of curious about the extent of 'won't be so'."
Wishing for Inaba get into her straightforward mode, Taichi murmured.
"However, for this plan, everyone's cooperation will be needed...... and there's also certain risks......"
Inaba said. Taichi immediately responded.
"Of course, we'll cooperate as much as you want. As for the risks, everyone trusts that you'll do something about them."
Taichi reassuringly said. Inaba looked at him and instantly became certain.
Inaba turned her head downward a few degrees and smiled. It was a somewhat gentle smile that carried a slightly different atmosphere.
"Alright! That's it...... But even so, there's nothing for you to do."
"......Nothing at all?"
Didn't he look foolish after putting in so much enthusiasm?
"Well, you can do some odd jobs, I guess. Call Yui and Aoki to come. Then casually move the water buckets for extinguishing fire to the place that I'll tell you. I'll leave it up to you, odd jobs-kun."
"So I'm just doing chores......"
While complaining, Taichi went according to Inaba's directions.
During that time, Kiriyama and Aoki, who had been summoned to Inaba, were taught a suspicious plan. Kiriyama quickly shook her head upon hearing Inaba's words.
However, Inaba whispered something into Kiriyama's ear, and immediately after Inaba's mouth was closed, Kiriyama nodded excitedly.
She doesn't want to make enemies, Taichi seriously thought.
Bang. Inaba hit something with the side of her hips.
That seemed to be the signal. Kiriyama and Aoki obliquely moved to gain some distance.
What am I to do? Taichi looked at Inaba to confirm, and with a finger, she ordered Taichi to "standby where he was". (That's how Taichi interpreted it)
And then, the sound of Inaba hitting something rang out again.
"Ah! It's almost time, we must bring the papers here!"
Kiriyama spoke (in a surprising monotone) and ran out.
Taichi's focus naturally moved towards Kiriyama. In the corner of his eye, he could make out Tanaka likewise turning to look at her.
Next was Aoki.
"Ah! I forgot my Chakaman!"
Saying something like that, he dashed out.
How on earth would it develop into Tanaka leaving this room?
With sweaty hands, Taichi watched over the fate of this situation.
And then, in front of his eyes, the plan unfolded. ―I can't believe my eyes.
First, Aoki, who had supposedly run outside earlier, made his move.
With words that sounded like a lie, he took a grand fall.
Not understanding anything, Taichi winced and looked up. Isn't that Kiriyama plunging towards the falling Aoki?
"Uh, ah, be careful!"
Kiriyama shouted. Almost trampling on Aoki, she jumped.
Making use of her tension in her legs, Kiriyama easily leapt over Aoki, but it was impossible to stop her momentum.
"Wah, toh, toh, toh……"
Kiriyama stumbled a few steps while landing.
In front of her path was the water bucket that Taichi had moved earlier.
...... The penny dropped.
However, it was hard to believe that this foolish plan could actually be carried out in reality. Taichi's chest filled with hope and anxiety as he waited for the outcome.
"Tanaka-senseiǃ get out of the wayǃ It's dangerous...... goooooo!"
Kiriyama, who had clearly said something she shouldn't have in the middle of that shout, kicked the bucket filled with water.
This was foolish in so many ways!
Kiriyama's ferocious kick hit the bucket and the water inside rose with it.
As if it was planned, the bucket did not directly hit Tanaka, but only the water showered onto him with a splash.
This plan was audacious to the extreme.
"Sensei, are you alright?ǃ This is pretty serious...... You should go change! Do you have something to change into?"
With a hurried bearing, Inaba rushed over to Tanaka.
"Co, Cold......! ......C-Change? Ah, I have something but...... But before that, I can't help but think that this is deliberately......"
"Ahh, It was such an unfortunate accident! Anyway, it's better if you hurry and go change!"
The last line was extremely coercive. Inaba pushed Tanka out of the rooftop area.
After Inaba and Tanaka had left, Taichi, Kiriyama, and Aoki continued to look at the closed door, speechless.
A few moments passed before the door opened.
And then, Inaba, whose face could only be seen, spoke.
"Hurry up and prepare! We've got no time!"
Taichi worriedly wondered if there were going to be any problems afterwards.
After that, time passed in the blink of an eye.
First, the four of them retrieved the "CR News" and set them so that it was possible to immediately throw them down.
While listening to the progress of the beauty pageant from the speakers, each of them set up two daytime fireworks to be ready for launch.
In the middle of their work, they heard some sounds from the speakers.
"―and for the first year division, Miss Yamaboshi is...... entry number four! Class 1C, Nagase Iori! Okaaay! That's what I thought, too~!"
It was exactly what they had expected.
Nevertheless, the host sure was getting into the swing of it.
The second and third year division announcement continued smoothly.
Thanks to the overly enthusiastic host dragging on the announcements and tirelessly taking up time, the CRC managed to complete the preparations with time to spare.
But this time, Tanaka, who had finished changing, returned. The members were stuck with worrying and awkwardly waiting for time to pass.
When the host finally went into the conclusion, "Can I say a few words?" a familiar voice flowed from the speakers.
Cheers and applause broke out.
"Thank you! I am this year's first year division Miss Yamaboshi, Nagase Iori! Umm, as a matter of fact, I am in the club called the Cultural Research Club. And the Cultural Research Club has something to present for this Cultural Festival. Without further ado...... please look upǃ"
That was the signal. The remaining four members of the Cultural Research Club lit the fireworks.
Shoooǃ Leaving behind the sound of discharge, the fireworks launched.
Colorful smoke soared high into the sky.
The sound of the explosion reverberated.
The unexpected amount of smoke and the loud noise surprised the four members of the Cultural Research Club.
However, even in their state of surprise, under Inaba's orders, the members of the Cultural Research Club scattered the "CR News Cultural Festival Special Edition" down the roof.
The newspaper that they chose to write themselves fluttered and danced in the sky.
With the photo of the secret meeting between teachers on one side, the papers swooped down towards the clamoring crowd.
The cheering became louder.
The commotion increased.
"This is our 'CR News'! Please have a read~!"
With Nagase's last words, Taichi and the others had finished all they can do.
All they could do now was watch the ripples in the pond from the thrown stone.
The result still couldn't be seen, but Taichi noticed that he was laughing.
Even in this situation, laughs continued to pour out.
Looking to the side, Inaba, Kiriyama, and Aoki were also laughing.
Clapping their hands, they continued their loud, meaningless, stupid laughs.
And a little further away, Nagase was also laughing on the ground.
With her mouth wide open and a sunny, smiling face, Nagase was awkwardly jumping up and down.
They could hear the sounds from the sports field carried by the wind.
The noise of a ruckus,
The sounds of cheering,
The sound of screaming,
Some angry voices,
Some strange voices,
Reached our ears one after another.
The sensation of all these sounds brought us back into reality. The inexhaustible laughter faded into nothingness.
From the speakers, a voice can be heard.
"What the heck?ǃ Is this article true?ǃ This year's Miss Yamaboshi belongs to that club, after all! Eh? 'That's not related?' Heck if I know!"
It looks like the announcer is really arguing with the audience.
"You're saying that they don't look like their dating? So you think they're continuing some half-assed relationship? What are you, a middle school studentǃ Eh? 'Hirata-sensei is someone I admire?', you say? I also kinda do, damn it!"
Seems like he's forgotten his role as host.
"Eh? What is it this time? 'How about we make it clear if they're dating or not'? That's what I was thinking, yeah? ...... So, how about asking them to make it black and white, right here, right now! How about it, dear guests!"
An unbelievably thunderous cheer erupted.
"Yeah yeah. Thanks for the noise...... Would the people concerned come up on stage! No...... here's a better plan, how about dragging them along onto the stage at the night festival, everyone! Alright, secure Hirata-sensei and Tanaka-senseiǃ Hurry with the preparations for the campfire! Everyone, goooooo!"
With a ground-rumbling cheer, the students scattered.
Thanks to the excitable host and the power of the audience exposed by the unique festival atmosphere, an extra stage, which Taichi and the others did not expect, had been prepared.
......As one would expect, this had become a too big of an event.
The sun set, and the night festival began.
The sinking sun's faint light and the burning red of the campfire lit up the sports field. Headed by the passionate host, the energy of the excited crowd showed no signs of weakening. Now, the teachers were preparing for an unprecedented public confession in front of the entire student body, including the alpha leading them.
At first, the two in question were resistant to the idea (especially Tanaka). However, the majority of the teachers also said "Can't help that it's become so huge! Just do it! See this to the end!" and sided with the students, so the two subjects didn't have a choice.
In the end, they made such an embarrassing confession that anyone would blush from hearing it. With that, the teacher couple became officially recognized by the school, and the event turned out to have a happy ending.
All that was left to be worried about was how the two teachers would face their classes from now on.
Immediately after the public confession, Taichi was jostled around by his restless classmates, who asked questions like "How did you guys do it!", but for now, all was calm.
It seems that many boys had thoughts like "If I ride on the waves of this atmosphere...... I feel like it'll work" and "Ah, if I miss this chance, when will I ever get the next one?" and made advances on the people they liked.
Even when they were hit on in such an excellently feverish atmosphere, the girls weren't foolish. Not counting those that they had prospects for, the girls probably rejected everyone completely and beautifully.
It seems like there would be a frightening ambience in the classrooms at the beginning of the next week.
Inaba walked over alone from the direction of the school building.
Taichi immediately went over to her and called out.
"Hey, Inaba. Where are you going? Was it too much, being peppered with questions like 'Where did you get your hands on that photo?'"
"Ah― Yes, yes, thanks for your hard work. I was also cleaning up some loose ends from this incident."
"Loose ends? Did something happen?"
Taichi asked. Inaba's face clearly told Taichi that she was thinking "Is this guy stupid or what?".
"Seriously, do you think that it's okay to secretly take a photo of teachers and distribute it to the entire student body without explaining and justifying it to the subjects themselves? Are you stupid? Wait, you are stupid."
Because that was exactly the case, Taichi could not offer a rebuttal.
"I...... I'm sorry."
He honestly apologized.
"Hmph. Well, since I've expertly explained away the situation, you don't need to worry."
"What on earth did you do to smooth out this situation?"
He had certainly wanted to accompany her to the negotiation.
"In any case, how did you get your hands on that...... I'll stop asking about that. Why did you decide to use that for the article? Didn't you know that it would become a serious mess in many ways?"
Since he had been curious about it from the beginning, Taichi asked. If he had to decide, he would expect Inaba to be the type of person who does her best to avoid putting in unnecessary effort.
After a little while, Inaba started talking.
"That's because I understand that those two have mutual feelings for each other. They were waiting for a trigger, those two. And, if I give that indecisive middle-aged man a push from the back, they would owe me quite a big favor. Well, whether I can get them to think that way depends on my conversation skills during my explanation."
Inaba grinned broadly and laughed.
"Moving on, did you know that Tanaka's greatly involved in the budget compilation of each club? If we could work that into an article, we can probably secure a sizable amount for next year's budget, right? Hehhehheh."
"Are you the devil?"
As I thought, I couldn't help but be curious about Inaba's sources of information.
"But in the end, it all turned out to be for Inaba's benefit."
That's so like her, Taichi thought and laughed a little.
Seeming to not have heard Taichi's monologue, Inaba absent-mindedly murmured.
"......Well, I simply wanted to do something stupid with you guys, I suppose. If I wanted to only get hold of the funds, then there are other, better ways to do it."
Those words were a little different from Taichi's image of Inaba.
"Heh, so Inaba also thinks that way?"
Taichi had never thought that the rationalist Inaba would ever say something like "I simply wanted to do something stupid".
Furthermore, she also said that she wanted to do it with us,.Taichi felt somewhat happy with that. Without thinking, he grinned.
In response, Inaba's face became red.
"Hey, why the hell are you grinning?! Don't laugh! Gross!"
"What? Are you embarrassed?"
"I AM NOT EMBARRASSED!"
Finding Inaba's strange irritation at such a trivial matter to be funny, Taichi wanted to laugh excessively.
"I told you to stop smilingǃ Ahhhh~~~~ Shit, when talking to Taichi, we somehow chat about unnecessary things."
Inaba pouted and messily grabbed her hair.
"......Hmm? Taichi. Nagase's calling you from over there, so you should get going already. Look! Hehe."
Taichi turned around and could see Nagase, who had changed from a yukata to her uniform. While waving her hand swiftly in the air, she did a slow jog towards us.
"Well, the bug getting in the way shall disappear."
It's better if we're all together, though. Inaba went off, for some reason leaving behind those words.
Nagase arrived in front of Taichi's eyes.
"Hey, sorry. I've just been confessed to by lots of people."
"You can say something like that so smoothly?ǃ By the way, was it any of the guys from class?ǃ"
He was quite surprised.
"There were some from our class and some from elsewhere."
"......So, what did you do?"
Taichi nervously asked.
"I kept calm and rejected them all!"
"The taste of your wording was too light! And don't use something like 'keep calm'! "
While retorting, Taichi felt relieved.
......Huh? Why am I relieved, I wonder.
"Well, I'm grateful that they told me they like me and it's not like I dislike those people, but I can't really care about that kind of thing, or perhaps I can't do that sort of thing......"
Her attitude up till now had been crisp, but now it completely changed. Nagase spoke with a voice that seemed to be shaking with sorrow.
Taichi was unable to respond well to that abrupt change.
However, in the middle of thinking, Nagase returned to her excited self.
"More importantly, weren't we super awesome today?ǃ We surprised such a huge crowd, realized a love story, and this aftermath is wonderful! It's like a convention where people are confessing left, right and centerǃ Why, this will...... become a legend!"
Nagase laughed while making a peace sign.
"Ah, that's true. I was moved a bit."
I certainly didn't think that we would be able to move this many people, influence something, and not to mention change something completely.
"We were able to do it for the first time because it was the five of us."
Looking happy from the bottom of the heart, Nagase said.
"That's true...... I would honestly want to say that, but I didn't participate much......"
"Certainly, there's no need to talk about Inaba, Aoki gave a nice idea, I also worked hard for the beauty pageant, and I heard that Yui participated actively today. Compared to that, Taichi especially didn't do anything right? Exactly being only a combatant A!"
Even though I agree with it, hearing someone else saying it so frankly caused me to take a huge amount of damage.
Seeing Taichi act heavily injured and grabbing his chest, Nagase giggled and laughed like she was having fun, and then spoke.
"But, as expected, I think Taichi is the most necessary person among the five of us ."
―A necessary person.
Looking straight with her frightfully beautiful eyes, Nagase continued.
"There are certainly cases where it isn't true, but the person who looks like he isn't doing anything often carries out the most important role in the organization, right?"
"Is that...... so?"
"There are cases when it isn't, though."
"......Do you want to comfort me or not?"
Ahaha, laughed Nagase as she presented a smile brighter than the campfire.
"At the very least, I needed Taichi to be here for me to be able to do it. If Taichi wasn't here, I wouldn't like it, I...... think? Was that a little awkward just now? Hm?"
Nagase cocked her head in doubt.
"Anyways, if one of the members is absent or swapped for someone else, we definitely wouldn't get a completely identical conclusion, right? Even if it's an extremely small difference. In the end, there is meaning for someone to be where he is, I believe."
"Nagase can be deep sometimes."
Taichi said with honest admiration.
"......Ha! Did you just call me deep?ǃ That's right, today is a festival. Anyways, let's go find Inaban, Yui, and Aoki! We've got to hurry up and launch the CRC!"
As Taichi was grumbling, "What do you mean by launch?", Nagase held Taichi's arm and ran off at her own pace.
Entrusting his right arm to be dragged by the warm and soft hand, Taichi also started running.
They ran through the crowd filled with smiles and cut through the evening wind.
Some of those smiles were likely caused by us.
With that thought, Taichi laughed and joined the smiling group as one of them.
I don't know if it's true.
But just for today, I could pretend that I'm drunk on the atmosphere of the festival and try to believe the claim that I'm the most needed person. Taichi thought to himself.